Marriage of Inconvenience? DevOps & ITSM

Time and time again I’ve heard the phrase, “DevOps doesn’t understand ITIL; they are so different and don’t really have anything in common.”

Before I can delve into all the ramifications of this statement, let me start out by defining the three terms: DevOps, ITSM, and ITIL.

  • DevOps is an enterprise software development phrase that is used to define an agile relationship between development and IT operations, which encourages better communication, collaboration, and continuous delivery.
  • IT Service Management (ITSM) is all about how an organization plans, designs, implements, operates, and governs IT services for its customers.
  • IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices for ITSM in order to maximize efficiency, effectiveness, and cost optimization.

Opposites attract: why DevOps and ITIL work well together

As a mature CIO with legacy ITSM experience, when I first came across DevOps, I was attracted to it precisely because it was different. Sadly, these differences initially confused and annoyed me. In fact, I began to think that my approach to ITSM was generally right and that DevOps was wrong. Therefore, I did what any good CIO would do, I tried to “fix” DevOps based on my own pre-conception of IT processes. I did this in order to make DevOps more like ITSM. Not surprisingly, this failed dramatically.

What I forgot was that there’s a reason opposites attract: it’s good for both sides. Take marriage for example. If you married someone just like you, then you wouldn’t have to grow, get out of your comfort zone, or have to enter into someone else’s world. The same applies to the marriage of DevOps and ITSM — the differences can add richness, depth, and texture — if you embrace the union.

DevOps versus ITSM Basics

If you put the basics of each concept side-by-side, a stark contrast of key tenants appear within each approach. Looking at these differences, they appear to be totally disjointed and conflicting. Especially when considering the ever rapid rate of innovation and new product delivery that our Web-based world demands.



Planned Iterative
Process-based Incremental
Procedure-based Collaborative
Documented Experimental
Waterfall/Sequenced Lean/Agile

I would argue that ITIL as a framework for service management focuses on delivering fit-for-use products and services. Likewise, DevOps is a philosophy/culture that promotes collaborative and agile processes — also focused on delivering fit-for-use products and services. By merging these together, an organization can produce an effective hybrid DevOps/ITIL environment.

DevOps addresses the inherent inefficiencies that ITIL has in time propagated due to the increasing complexity in technology and service management. These include communicating in silos, not focusing on the customer, and lack of collaboration across the business. And ITIL will play an important role in DevOps by providing rigor, audit, governance, and credibility in its final delivery.

Actually, DevOps and ITSM are the perfect union

By leveraging both methodologies via a marriage of convenience, an organization can create lasting value through collaboration and continuous improvement. Consequently, I strongly believe that ITIL and DevOps are compatible.

ITSM is a crucial part of building and maintaining a platform for sound DevOps practices based on people, processes, and technology. The language and terminology used may be different but the outcomes are the same – delivering value to the business where it needs it most.

Remember, differences are often the biggest asset when combining two different people or groups. If you learn how to merge them successfully, your IT teams will have the ability to embrace the best of both concepts.

Aligning these practices to accommodate true service management for a hybrid cloud/IT environment is the goal of HPE’s World Wide Strategic Transformation, Governance & Operations Center of Excellence (CoE). The CoE runs customer centric transformational workshops to develop strategic roadmaps that provide customers with a cohesive view of DevOps and ITSM.

About the author

Mario Devargas is a CIO Advisor for HPE, consulting with organizations in the adoption of collaborative working processes — not just in IT, but across the entire enterprise. With over 30 years at an executive level, he is a passionate and visionary CIO with an extensive record of achievement across the private and public sectors within the corporate and commercial markets, banking, manufacturing and most recently public sector.

To read more articles by Devargas, visit HPE’s Transforming IT blogsite. To read more about Digital Transformation, visit HPE’s Shifting to Software-Defined blogsite.